Another Way To Look At The Sacrament

I’ve always thought of the bread and water of the sacrament–the body and blood of Jesus–as emblems of his death only. That makes sense–the ordinance is to commemorate the Atonement.

But lately I’ve also been focusing on how it could direct us to his life, as well as his death.

The prayer on the water says, “the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them” (D&C 20:79), that second part explicitly directing us to think of Lord’s infinitely painful sacrifice that last night and day of his life.

The prayer on the bread, however, only mentions “the body of thy Son,” with no added description like there is on the water.

Indeed, the first two of the three Biblical synoptic gospels (John does’t mention the Last Supper), inspires this: both mention the body of Christ, without any further explanation, but then also mention the blood of Christ, with the overt follow-up about it being shed as a sacrifice for us:

Matthew 26:26-28

26 ¶And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.

27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;

28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Mark 14:22-24

22 ¶And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.

23 And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.

24 And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

Luke is a little bit different, though. His story is the only place where there is a modifying phrase after the blessing on the bread:

Luke 22: 19-20

19 ¶And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.

20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

“Which is given for you.” I think a lot must ride on those five words.

Note that it does’t say the body is bruised, or tortured, or killed, or any of the other violent terms one might expect there (like the “shedding” of blood, which is always used in a violent context, usually war).

I wonder if the “giving” of Jesus Christ’s body could refer to more than just the physical suffering he endured as he died. Could it also direct us to remember, not just how he died, but how he lived? Could the “giving” of his body for us also include the way he served, taught, and submitted his will to that of the Father day in and day out for years? How about the way he always kept the laws of God in perfect obedience, despite being tempted to do otherwise?

Those things are important to remember each week, too, aren’t they?

If we can look at the blessing on the water as a memorial of the blood shed for us in his death, then we could see the blessing on the bread as an injunction to always remember his life, every gloriously charitable moment of it.

In this too, then, Jesus is rightly called “the bread of life.”


2 comments on “Another Way To Look At The Sacrament

  1. Very good, I was suprised you didn’t include this gem from the Book of Mormon:

    “And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, WHICH I HAVE SHOWN UNTO YOU.” (3 Nephi 18:7)

  2. Interesting and very perceptive. Your insight parallels James Farrell’s insight in his book “The Holy Secret.” He suggests that the bread prayer is a covenant to be perfectly faithful and obedient, while the wine/water prayer is a follow-up covenant (us having invariably fallen short of the first standard) to always repent and remember the Lord when we mess up. I think he shows pretty clearly that if you read the two prayers closely and in contrast, you can see this distinction in the things we’re promising.

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